Curious at Soho Theatre
Jasmine Lee-Jones garnered great attention with the pithy and punchy Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner. The award-winning playwright returns to the London stage with her eagerly anticipated follow-up, which finds its home at Soho Theatre. Whereas its predecessor created waves, Curious causes ripples, which allow its audience to flow from belly laughs one moment to pensive pondering the next. This is a quieter, more understated affair than her debut, with Lee-Jones resisting any temptation or pressure to replicate or repeat. Instead, she quite rightly talks about what matters to her and what she has and is living through, taking advantage of her newfound platform to give a voice to Black women. It’s fitting, then, that the writer also performs in this one-woman show about, among other things, race, sexuality, cultural history and the idiosyncrasies of London life in 2021.
Jaz is a drama student severely uninspired by the curriculum. Unable to relate to any characters from the Restoration era they are studying, she takes it upon herself to research the history of Black women in the theatre. In doing so she learns about her present and herself, while interacting with some charismatic characters along the way.
It’s hard to synopsise a play that veers off on so many tangents with only a thin plot to bind it all together. In some cases, it would be cause for a problematic production. Here, the premise permits the playwright to explore an array of pertinent subject matter; from a homophobic mother to shoplifting and drug taking via unexpected romance and what it means to lose one’s virginity, Curious excavates and examines in a beautifully natural and conversational way. By switching the focus so frequently, though, it doesn’t always dig as deeply as one might like.
Director Anna Himali Howard and Lee-Jones allow viewers appropriate breathing space to digest the content, while sustaining momentum with swift scene transitions. The result does, however, fall flat on occasion with certain moments meandering a little too much. Any dips are soon salvaged by laughter-inducing dialogue (and there is a great deal to be had here), but there is the feeling that this could be made tighter and more cohesive.
The production is enriched by an expert performance from Lee-Jones. With natural storytelling ability, her compelling chronicles captivate, but it is when the actor multi-roles that she truly flourishes. Embodying the swag of hilarious best friend Mon, the artist conjures a character who is so believable that the audience finds itself truly invested in her throughout. Morphing from highly-strung fellow drama student Rosebud into the enigmatic Fakedeep also exhibits engaging characterisation that almost gives the sense of other actors being on stage.
The dialogue drifts from London slang to the more lyrical and one is constantly reminded of the unique and distinguished voice of its author. There are peaks and troughs as the 90 minutes ebb and flow, but there is no doubt that theatregoers will be curious as to the next offering from this eminent artist.
Photo: Helen Murray
Curious is at Soho Theatre from 16th September until 16th October 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.